Happy New Year to all football fans from FIFA.com. As we enter 2010 and look forward to another great year of football, the thoughts of many will naturally be on the FIFA World Cup™, which takes place between 11 June and 11 July in South Africa. But FIFA's flagship tournament is just one of many highlights in a year packed with football action. We take a look at the schedule for the year ahead, so that you can mark those all-important dates in your diary.
We start the year with a rather substantial appetiser. From 10 to 31 January the CAF African Cup of Nations takes place in Angola. Sixteen sides will fight it out for the continental title, with the hosts taking on Mali in the opening fixture. This tournament will give the world a chance to see five of the continent’s six teams competing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™: Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. Only South Africa will be absent.
Bafana Bafana, with no opportunity to play competitive football, will have to make do with friendly fixtures in advance of their opening match against Mexico at Soccer City, Johannesburg on 11 June. This historic opener will be followed by thirty days of football at the highest level. 32 teams will compete for the precious trophy that Italy won on a thrilling night in Germany four years ago.
In order to ensure that the national teams will have sufficient time to get their players in the best shape for the finals, all official club fixtures will be completed by 16 May at the latest. Therefore, the first five months of the year will provide plenty of football to keep us entertained.
And for the ladies
Once the curtain closes on South Africa 2010, there will scarcely be time to draw breath before the women’s game takes centre stage. Just two days after the men’s final, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup gets underway in Germany. So far, only national teams from the UEFA and AFC zones have secured qualification and FIFA.com will keep you informed of developments concerning qualifiers in the remaining confederations.
Similarly, we will keep you up-to-date with the qualification process for the next major date in the diary: the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, for which attention will shift to Trinidad and Tobago. From 5 to 25 September the Caribbean islands will play host to some of the brightest prospects for the future of women’s football.
In the closing stretch of the year, club football will return to the forefront, as national and continental competitions gather momentum, and we prepare to return to Abu Dhabi for the FIFA Club World Cup. Barcelona made history there in 2009 by claiming their sixth title of the year. Could any club do better within 12 months?
To close the year, December will see planet football’s biggest stars descend on Zurich for the FIFA World Player of the Year Gala. Lionel Messi and Marta, recently crowned King and Queen of the game, will be eager to extend their reign.
December will also bring two other important announcements as the FIFA Executive Committee reveals the two member associations that shall host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
All of the above is to be peppered with international friendlies, qualification matches and national and continental club action. Together, it promises to be a veritable feast of football. Let the party begin.